On February 4, 2009, Matt Ivester, the founder and CEO of JuicyCampus.com, announced that JuicyCampus would be shutting down due to plummeting online ad revenue. In an ensuing Q&A, he insisted that a shortage of funds was the sole reason for the shutdown; no charges were ever brought against JuicyCampus for defamation, and the site did not lose any significant revenue from being banned at a few campuses.
While JuicyCampus may never have been brought to court, it was not for lack of trying. A 3/25/08 YDN article detailed efforts by the New Jersey and Connecticut attorney generals to submit JuicyCampus to investigation under consumer fraud laws, claiming that the site misleads its users by failing to enforce its own terms and conditions. According to the attorney generals, the site claims that users may not post defamatory comments, but does not provide a mechanism for preventing them. Indeed, many hateful threads were created and sustained by Yale students about other Yale students, referencing looks, weight, sexual experience, etc. And while Dean Salovey remarked in the YDN article that he did not believe “censoring a web site [was] consistent with Yale’s free expression policies,” some of the comments were on a level of defamation similar to those detailed in Doe vs. Ciolli, and could possibly have fallen under Connecticut statutes against defamation if individuals targeted on JuicyCampus had brought their cases to court. However, the process for bringing that case to court in the first place would have been painfully difficult, if not impossible, given JuicyCampus’ protection against liability and refusal to give up identities of anonymous posters without a subpoena.
I will admit that in my hours of procrastination, I occasionally clicked around on JuicyCampus. At its best, it was entertaining, with threads like “hottest guy on campus,” “worst hookup story,” etc. But at worst, I came across a thread with the name of one of my close friends in the subject line, and some of the comments weren’t pretty (or remotely true). I didn’t tell her about the thread, and I’m not sure she ever knew. But this friend of mine is applying for jobs right now, and if that thread were still in existence on JuicyCampus, she might have suffered irreparable damage in her job hunt because of some bored kid who had nothing better to do than post hateful, anonymous comments about her — comments which JuicyCampus made no effort to monitor, despite its promises in its terms of service.
JuicyCampus has since segued into CollegeACB, which claims to host a “higher level of discourse” than JuicyCampus. It also employs a user-moderation button, allowing users themselves to report inappropriate posts to the webmaster, rather than forcing the webmaster to serve as gatekeeper himself. It also requires you to create an account with your .edu email address. Perhaps luckily, CollegeACB never caught on at Yale the way JuicyCampus did. But on the flip side, the lack of Yale users means that the user-moderation button is effectively useless. As I scrolled down the list of threads just now, someone initiated a post on 9/1/10 titled “N***ers” that read “Stop coming to Yale. You are ruining this school.” I tried to report the thread, but I was asked to create an account first, which I have zero interest in doing. Has CollegeACB risen above its predecessor? I think not.